I’m having a little trouble closing the gap between these two threads.

First we have VADM McCoy, commander of NAVSEA on the standing up of the Surface Ship Life Cycle Management (SSLCM) Activity.

“SSLCM Activity will execute the complex task of maximizing the material readiness of our current Fleet by ensuring each and every ship in our inventory is ready to respond to their missions today, tomorrow, and well into the 21st century,” said Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, commander of NAVSEA. “And as we continue to build our future Fleet, particularly as our Littoral Combat Ships come online, every newly commissioned ship will be meticulously tracked right out of the gate to ensure our warfighters, our taxpayers and our nation get the most out of these national assets.”

SSLCM was described last month as,

The Navy’s first office dedicated to keeping ships around as long as possible will stand up at East and West Coast waterfronts by early May and begin to provide details for how to get the most good our of the fleet.

The Surface Ship Life Cycle Management Activity, which will fall under the aegis of Naval Sea Systems Command, will determine the best ways for ships to reach their full service lives ….

Ok. Got it. Now, I want everyone to think about what it takes every day, by every Sailor, on every ship, through every tour, by the sweat of their hard work and the puzzl’n of their puzzler to make a ship give the taxpayer every year out of her she can give.

Now I want you to ponder this quote from the CNO.

[about LCS] We need to think of the best way to operate the ship and maintain the ship with 40 people and not being overly consumed with cosmetics. Cosmetics are man-hours.

I don’t like anything that creates work.

I’m sorry, but without even going into the ability to sustain extended days to weeks of combat watches, damage control and other, ahem, mildly important things Sailors do on ships – how do we stop premature material degradation of our ships if we plan to have dirty ill-maintained ships?

This is much more than “If it moves, salute it. If it doesn’t, paint it.” – much more than cosmetics. No, it is a mindset that goes in the face of everything we have learned through centuries of putting Sailors and ships to sea. Back in the day, even in mostly fully manned ships with neat little things like Destroyer Tenders – keeping things going on long in the tooth ships was a challenge from both a material and mechanical point of view. We know that. Today it is a challenge – just looked what we did to the SPRUANCE Class – most of us can tell stories of the “Big E” and the labor of love she has been.

Back on my home blog, Byron made a point only a Shipfitter could.

Today’s maintenance philosophy:

You buy your car. You get all your co-workers to wash it and wax it every day. You never, ever let it get near a shop to change the oil or any other maintenance. When you see a rust hole in your car, you put 18 coats of thick paint on it. Keep driving. Keep waxing. When it (as you know it will) breaks down you have all your co-workers write dozens of repair requests, making sure that all of them say “request outside repair activity perform repairs”. Park your car on the side of the street. Let dozens of highly skilled repair personnel to walk around, jack your car up, take the doors off, turn off the electricity and air conditioning in your home, and 2 months later, send you a bill somewhere north of 3 million.

Sounds like a plan to me.

What if you don’t have anyone to wash it, wax it, or paint over it?

Help me out with two things. First, How do we bridge this gap between the SSLCM’s charter and the “40-sump’n folks” CNO question? Second, how have we found ourselves well into the third trimester of LCS’s development (IMAO, the birth is complete once the thing leaves for its first deployment) and the CNO even asks such a question?

“We need to think of the best way to operate the ship and maintain the ship with 40 people….”

The fact that the question is still floating out there should give everyone pause. This program is well past the PPT stage …..

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy

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  • B. Walthrop

    Can you begin to square the circle by considering the different points of view of the two Admirals. The two quotes are not mutually exclusive. VADM McCoy seems to be saying that the role of the SSLCM will be to ensure that the correct allocation of maintenance resources can be used to solve the problem of getting the right maintenance done on LCS within the constraint of a 40 person crew.

    In answer to your last question, we find ourselves in the situation we are in with LCS largely due to the accelerated acquisition timeline. Cost over-runs, lack of a coherent CONOPS, unstable requirements (speed, NVR, etc.) and lack of a well resourced maintenance plan can all be laid at the feet of the aggressive design and acquisition timeline. It remains to be seen whether this really is the disaster it is being portrayed as, but it brings up an interesting point of discussion.

    LCS is plagued by many of the challenges that face the class (and may continue to face the class) by the aggressive acquisition strategy. DDG-1000 followed the more correct requirements generation and development path for surface combatants (JROC approved and everything), but it appears that the requirements for the capabilities of the ship (with a vote of our peer competitor) have changed sufficiently that the platform is no longer as valid as it was once thought. The disconnect that needs to be bridged is the disconnect from requirements to design and execution in a timely manner. Progress through the process too fast, and you get the complications associated with the LCS program. Move too slowly, and the geopolitical and technical capabilities of potential adversaries progress to the point that they are inside your OODA loop. These are tough problems that do require constant balancing and doing the right thing right.



  • Spade

    “We need to think of the best way to operate the ship and maintain the ship with 40 people….”

    I KINDA disagree, depending on more context. I don’t have any because your link at your blog failed me. >:|

    Sure you can write manuals, or come up with SOPs on how to do this or that, but until you actually have people doing stuff with something real all of that is just theory, and often wrong. You can write all sorts of procedures, but until you actually work them out by actually doing them, well, they might be wrong. So I can understand them saying, “we’re still working on how to do X with Y number of people” because nobody has ever done it before. Not everything can be planned for on powerpoint.

  • Spade

    To clarify, I kinda disagree with your feelings about the quoted statement.

  • Natty Bowditch

    Apples and oranges.

    LCS is proposing a 21 day deployment schedule.

  • Byron

    And you think that 21 day schedule will hold? Must be nice to live in la la land, but one day, reality will bite a big chunk out of your butt. That’s when sailors pay the price for the mistakes made by the Congress, the DoD, and the MilCorps.

    Dat’s a fact, Jack.

  • Bill

    I went to sea for a long time and have great trouble in believing the desired crew strength can hold such a ship together without many ergs of labor intensive maintenance…from somewhere. One hates to consider battle damage.
    “Either Pay Me now or Pay Me Later “

  • doc75

    Let’s not forget that the much larger DDG-1000 has crew of only 120. And I imagine the Navy isn’t planning a crew of 300 for CG(X). The problem is that personnel are perceived as expensive and if you look at the O&M budget, the biggest slice of the pie is indeed personnel. I’m guessing Post-9/11 GI Bill isn’t going to reduce the cost of personnel.

    The problem is that if you want a larger crew you have to figure out how to make people cheaper. Less pay, less health care, less benefits. Something has to give. I’m not necessarily saying that’s the way to go. However, if you truly want to square the circle then figure out how to reduce personnel cost to achieve the larger crew size.

  • Byron

    Which is more expensive? The ship, or the highly trained and skilled offices and enlisted? If you lost the ship, could you be back in the fight quicker if you had most of the crew back? Just look back to WW2 and you’ll see the answer.

  • pk

    i was on a destroyer tender during the start of viet nam.

    i was one of those guys that worked 12 hours a day for 96 days without a day off, got a sunday off then did another 56 straight and a lot of them spinning my hat.

    you have no idea the things that have to be fixed because of a “high level of operations”.

    i would be suprised if LCS1 is operational within three years without massive support facilities.


  • Pk has a valid point, in that; “… work gets done when the pressure is on” Problem being, there isn’t any pressure (besides, it is difficult to perform quality work thousands of miles from base and under wartime constraints). Still, people need a reason and the Navy along with the merchants has insulated the sailors from respect of the demands of the cruel ocean. Valid viewpoint, none the less. The CNO cannot demand perfection from an edict sent down from on high. The ocean can, but we have moved beyond the boundaries of simple commen sense and seamanshiplike work ethics.